Making her voice heard

Balga resident Drisana Levitzke-Gray Picture: Marcus Whisson d414498
Balga resident Drisana Levitzke-Gray Picture: Marcus Whisson d414498

The 20-year-old, who was born deaf in both ears, became the first deaf Australian who uses Auslan to be considered to sit on a jury.

Ms Levitzke-Gray was summonsed to jury duty last year for a court case in January and requested an Auslan translator.

The fifth generation deaf woman said she got through the proceedings and narrowly missed becoming a juror after the random ballot process.

‘This is a massive step forward for the deaf community, not only for Perth and Western Australia but especially for Australia and internationally as the United States of America and New Zealand are among a handful of countries that allow deaf people to serve their civil duty,’ she said.

‘In the past, Western Australia and other states would deny deaf people the instant they inform that they are deaf and require an Auslan interpreter.

‘Therefore no one ever got past the initial stage of accepting their jury summons.

‘It’s a shame to see that deaf people are still discriminated against and oppressed in these days after coming a very long way in history.

‘We are all people, people with skills and knowledge who are able to contribute our civil duty especially with jury proceedings.’

The 2013 Deaf Australian Youth of the Year award winner said she hoped her experience would increase the number of deaf people accepted to complete their civil duty and provided with a professional interpreter.

‘In WA we have the language policy, which gives us the right to have interpreters provided in all areas that is under the government, such as courts,’ she said.

‘This is an essential tool for future WA deaf people who are summonsed for jury.

‘But the policy does not exist elsewhere in Australia the way it does here.

‘The more we get media involved, the more informed society is of recognising and allowing our rights as citizens of society.’

Ms Levitzke-Gray said being summonsed to jury duty reignited her teenage aspiration to become a lawyer.

‘Seeing many deaf people, including myself, facing discrimination on a daily basis sparked a goal inside me to aspire to be a lawyer,’ she said.

‘Over time I’ve found my passion within the deaf community and advocacy, but going through the jury proceeding is now making me reconsider the possibility to study something with law itself.’